Food corner

"To eat well in England you should have breakfast three times a day."

Somerset Maugham

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Spectacular Sunsets and disappointing food in the Philippines

I knew next to zero about Filipino food before I went there. The Philippines wasn’t on my itinerary until my friend Libby came to meet me in Vietnam and we discovered that all the places we were planning to go for our beach holiday were going to be grey and wet. Libs is a sunworshipper and I had promised her a summer holiday, so we flew to the Philippines on a whim.

We didn’t really do much research, even on the weather front, as it turned out that all the top beach destinations there were also going to be rainy and stormy. We'd only looked at the forecast for Manila, so we ended up having a rather bizarre holiday travelling around Luzon, the island Manila is on. I don’t think many tourists get beyond the capital.

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A flying trip through Cambodia

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try as many Khmer dishes as I would have liked in Cambodia, as I had an upset stomach most of the time that I was there.

I did try the famous fish amok once at Coconut Lyly in Battambang, which is often said to be Cambodia’s national dish. The fish was baked in a yellow curry sauce with vegetables and served in banana leaf. The curry sauce was coconut-based and flavoured with turmeric and lime leaves. My friend thought it was too hot, but I found it light and gentle – perfectly complementing the soft and silky fish.

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Vy's Market Tour and Cooking Class, Hoi An

I was that girl at the cooking class in Hoi An. No, not the know it all who answers all the questions and shows everyone how it’s done. I do my best to keep that under wraps, though fair play for jumping to that conclusion.

I mean the one with two cameras (iPhone and DSLR) and several lenses taking photos of anything and everything – the market stalls, the vendors, the teacher, the demos, the ingredients, each stage of preparation and the finished dishes. The girl sitting next to me looked like someone who might have bothered to talk to me in another environment, but I could see what she was thinking: ‘you crazy tourist, why don’t you just put your cameras down and enjoy the class?’

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Weird and 'wonderful' food in Hoi An

I'm fairly open-minded with food and will try most things once, but there are a few things I just know I never, ever want to put in my mouth. Or so I thought. Today I ate something that I never thought would pass my lips. But let’s build up to that, like I had to. 

As part of a market tour and cooking class I did in Hoi An, we were given the opportunity to sample a number of dishes at Vy’s Market Restaurant, which is basically a posh version of a street food market geared towards westerners. That doesn’t mean they dumb down the food; if anything, in an effort to educate foreigners they go to great lengths to provide all manner of dishes from around the country.

They let us in gently with some lovely tasters, such as these gorgeous bahn cuon, which are like a mini-version of bahn xeo (rice-flour pancake). Slightly thicker, they were crispy on the outside, soft and juicy in the centre and studded with little pieces of pork, chives and a crispy prawn.

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Best things I've eaten in Vietnam (so far)

Since internet cafes seem to be few and far between here, I've decided to just hit you with the highlights, rather than the city by city summary I was intending. Here's the best of the things I have eaten in Vietnam so far.

Squid stuffed with pork mince on Cat Ba Island

Sounds weird, but utterly delumptious. The squid was fresh as they come, fished out of the bay across the road that morning. It was also grilled perfectly - soft and tender, with slightly crispy tentacles.

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